Goddard, an adventurer, explorer and lecturer who evidently fell only a few goals short of a boyhood list that numbered more than 100, died Friday at a Glendale hospital of complications from cancer, said his son Jeffery.

In this sentence, why is not 'fell short of only a few goals ' but 'fell only a few goals short of'?

I think 'fall short of' is an idiom. If it is not an idiom, is 'only a few goals' a object of 'fell'?

Plz analyze this sentence in detail. thank you.

  • 1
    The phrase is “a few * short of a”, e.g. a few days short of (meaning less than) a year. – Xanne Aug 23 '19 at 5:32

The sentence is correct. Goddard almost completed his list: he fell short of it by only a few goals. (Apparently as a boy he made a long list of goals, and fulfilled nearly all of them.)

only a few goals is not an object of fell, it's more like a measurement. “I missed the target by a few inches”: the object is target, not inches. The sentence in question has no formal object, unless we consider list to be the object of fell short of.

Your alternative, fell short of only a few goals, is not wrong, but implies that each of his goals was a number (rather than a singular accomplishment).

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